Booth spaces are typically 10’ x 10”, but be prepared to get an application that specifies 8’ x 8’, 6’ x 6’, 10’ x 15’…you get the picture. Every show is different. For outdoor shows, especially multi-day shows, your first concern should be protecting your product and being prepared for inclement weather. Most vendors go with a canopy-type set up for outdoors. There are “easy-up” style canopies (E-Z Up, and Canopy King for example) that work just like the name suggests. You will usually sacrifice sturdiness for a canopy that is easy to put up, but starting out with a less expensive canopy is a good way to go until you are sure you enjoy the vendor experience. If you decide you want to make outdoor events a regular part of your art business, invest in a canopy like those made by Flourish Trimline. If the show is indoors, you will want to pay special attention to lighting. Choices for booth design are endless in style and creativity. Tables (with adjustable legs!) are a common starting place for jewelers, but don’t limit yourself. Be creative and always design your booth with the customer in mind. A good way to start the process is to go to a show and tour different booths with your particular product in mind. See what works and what doesn’t.
How much product to bring
You really won’t figure this out until you get a couple of shows under your belt. Expected attendance will help you gauge how much to bring. (If the application does not tell you that, ask the promoter.) When displaying your art, you want each piece to be appreciated for its uniqueness and so, it’s not good to overwhelm your booth with product; but on the other hand, you don’t want customers to think it’s all been picked through and you are low on stock. Basically, you want your display space to be full but not crowded.
The day of the show
Start the day well-rested because doing a show is a lot of work! Plan ahead carefully so that you don’t have to stay up late the night before a show. If you don’t have a specified load-in time, arrive early to give yourself plenty of time to set-up. This is particularly important when the venue is open to “early bird” customers.
Running your booth
Should you bring help? It depends. It’s great if you can get someone to help you with load-in and getting your booth furnishings in place. After that, though, your “help” might get in the way unless they know your product really well and they know how to work with customers. That said shows are a lot of work – the days are often long, and if you are not generally an extrovert, you will be tired at the end of the day.
Make sure you leave space for processing sales, wrapping product and business logistics. Ideally, this is in the form of a separate table or stand that is hidden or does not distract from your booth presentation.
Sad, but true, theft does occur. You will need to guard against it and keep it in mind when you set up your booth. It is particularly true for small items like jewelry. Keep the most expensive items close to where you plan to stand, or better yet, in a display cabinet. A booth design that makes people come into your booth is better than a design where your product is set up along the perimeter of your booth space.
Selling your art, dealing with customers, dealing with difficult customers….these are all things that will come with time and experience. The important thing is to be genuine and honest and tell people what makes your art special. Share your excitement!
If you decide to make art and craft shows a regular part of your business you should seriously consider getting set up to take credit cards. One option is to set up a Merchant Account with your bank. Once approved, you will get instruction about how to process credit cards. It costs you money to accept them – not just in the fees associated with having a merchant account, but you will also pay a small fee (2% to 5%) for each transaction. Still, you will generally sell more if you accept credit cards. You can keep your fees down by politely asking your customer if they have a regular credit card vs. a card with mileage plus or other such bells and whistles.
Shows can be a lot of fun. They can be exciting and rewarding. They offer you an opportunity to meet other amazing artists, dedicated customers, and new friends. You learn a great deal about how your art comes across to others in ways that you can’t learn from running a website alone. Yes…there are going to be disappointing shows, especially during the current economic climate. But you just may discover that art and craft shows become an essential and enjoyable part of your business.
A few resources
Book: Art Festival Guide – The Artist’s Guide to Selling in Art Festivals by Maria Arango of 1000 Wooducts
This book walks you through all of the steps in wonderful detail from a very experienced vendor.
CD: Booth Design and Merchandising for Craft and Trade Shows by Bruce Baker
CD: Dynamic Sales and Customer Service Techniques by Bruce Baker
You will find yourself listening to these CDs over and over again!